• Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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BMA review: UK failed to protect health staff during the pandemic

FILE PHOTO: NHS nurses protest against pay and working conditions outside the entrance to Downing Street on June 3, 2020 in London. (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

A review by a doctors’ union has revealed that the UK government failed to protect doctors and the wider healthcare staff at the start of the pandemic, according to a media report.

The British Medical Association review said staff were desperately let down by the lack of protective equipment, the BBC reported.

The review pointed out how doctors with an ethnic minority background had been more likely to die with Covid, in the early stages of the pandemic, than their white peers.

It added that the healthcare staff are still suffering the physical and mental health impacts, having seen unprecedented levels of illness and death.

“A moral duty of government is to protect its own healthcare workers from harm in the course of duty as they serve and protect the nation’s health. Yet, in reality, doctors were desperately let down by the UK government’s failure to adequately prepare,” BMA leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the BBC.

The BMA report, based on feedback and testimonies from the union’s members, will form part of its submission to the official public inquiry into the pandemic.

Chaand Nagpaul
Dr Chaand Nagpaul

The UK government took on the role of making deals with PPE suppliers in order to supply equipment that was distributed across all four nations of the UK.

Doctors told the BMA that, during the early months of the pandemic, there were times they had to buy or make their own masks.

One junior medic, in Scotland, said they remained bedbound, after being infected in March 2020. “My life as I knew it had ended,” the medic said.

Many doctors said they had felt pressured to work in hazardous situations, with inadequate risk assessments.

Data shows that doctors were no more likely than the general working-age population to die with Covid throughout 2020. But nurses and care workers were at higher risk. However, it is unclear how much that was related to exposure at work rather than other factors.

The BMA said the UK should have been better prepared and the problems had been made worse by the “savage” cuts to the public-health budget in the years before.

A government spokeswoman told the BBC that sufficient PPE had been bought, in a “very competitive global market”, to keep staff safe and mental health hubs had been set up to help them cope with trauma.

“We are committed to learning lessons from the Covid pandemic and will respond openly and transparently to the Inquiry and fully consider all recommendations made,” she said.

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